From SF Gate, 28 May 2001
Around 300 unionists occupied the ROK’s largest nylon plant, Hyosung in Ulsan city, on 21 May 2001. They fought management and security guards. Over one hundred people were injured.
The picket, clash and occupation successfully closed the entire factory down, and were still in the complex on 27 May.
The company had announced ‘relocation’ for workers whose jobs had been mechanised. The workers feared mass lay-offs were not far away and decided to occupy the workplace.
National Strike Bites Hard
From LabourStart and KCTU bulletins
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) called a national strike to begin on 12 June. This is the latest in a string of calls for national strikes as workers feel the pinch from the government’s neoliberal policies which favour business but demand flexibility from workers.
This strike call has won widespread support among workers who back the confederation’s call for better pay and conditions.
Around 50,000 strikers hit the streets in 14 cities across South Korea on the first day of the strike, and included workers from metal, chemical and transport industries. The government was most fearful about strike involvement of pilots and staff from two key national airlines. Official sources claimed the strike had attracted only 16,000.
Korean Air, one of the companies hit by the strike, rates second (behind Lufthansa) among international freight carriers.
Nurses added to the government’s worries when they and other health staff in eight hospitals joined the protest on 13 June.
The government declared the strike illegal as the unions had leap-frogged the legally mandated arbitration process. Police targeted 14 Korean Air (KAL) union officials for arrest.
Continuing with previous police state policies, plainclothes officers descended en masse on KCTU offices early on 15 June, but failed to find targeted unionists. Later that day they went to Korean Air Flight Crew Union offices. They confiscated documents at both sites.
KCTU official Park Ha-Soon was arrested during a rally of 7,000 on 16 June.
KAL’s 14 union leaders declared themselves to police on 15 June. Ten were released within two days; but four, including the union president, were charged and detained further.
12 Unionists Imprisoned
From International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU)
A letter sent to President Kim Dae Jung on 15 May:
Imprisonment of 12 trade unionists of Korean Federation of Transportation, Public and Social Services Workers’ Union
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), which represents 156 million workers through its 216 affiliated organisations in 148 countries and territories, including the Republic of Korea, would like to express its utter indignation at the imprisonment of 12 trade unionists of the Korean Federation of Transportation, Public & Social Services Workers’ Union (KPSU). This being one more in a series of violations against trade unionists in your country, that has aroused dismay within the international labour movement. That such violations should occur during your presidency is extremely frustrating.
Of utmost concern is the obvious systematic violence being used by the authorities against trade unions in the exercising of their legitimate rights. The following incidents come readily to mind:
- Excessive force deployed by riot police to break up the sit-in strike on 29th March, 2001, by KTCWU. On this occasion 6 union leaders, including the President, Hong Joon-Pyo, are still being held in prison
- A harsh prison sentence for Shin Kwang-Hoon, a member of the Korea Social Insurance Union for simply driving a sound-truck during a legal rally on 31st March, 2001
- Recent police brutality against the Daewoo workers
I would urge therefore, that you take urgent measures to arrange for the release of the following trade unionists affiliated to the KPSU:
- Shin Kwang-Hoon, Member of Korean Social Insurance Union
- Kim Han-Sang, former President of KSIU
- Hong Joon-Pyo, President, KCTWU
- Kang Tae-Bong, Director of Disputes, KTCWU
- Kim Ho-Ki, President, Seoul region, KCTWU
- Jang Jeong-Duk, Director of Disputes, Seoul Region, KCTWU
- Woo Seong-Ki. Taegu Regional President, KTCWU
- Kim Young-Min, Pusan Regional President, KTCWU
- Kim Dong-Kwon, member, KCTWU
- Lee Ho-Yeon, member, KTCWU
- Hwang Kyu-Seop, Branch President, KAIST
- Jeong Sang-Chul, Branch vice-President, KSTU KAIST
I hardly need to remind you of the commitments assumed by your government, through its membership of the OECD.
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions(ICFTU)